Will County earns grant to examine local paratransit services

The study will attempt to identify gaps in service relative to residents’ needs

Will County will evaluate local paratransit services with the help of a $200,000 grant from Pace Suburban Bus.

Pace announced the funding during last month’s Will County Board meeting, according to a news release.

The study will evaluate existing paratransit services in the county, identify gaps in service relative to local needs, and recommend systemwide improvements. The overall objective is to develop a sustainable, implementable plan for improving mobility options in Will County for targeted user groups, such as seniors, people with disabilities, and those with lower incomes.

“This is a major step in identifying solutions to our transportation challenges and providing more reliable paratransit options for those who need them most,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant in a statement. “We’re grateful for the support from Pace to strengthen our countywide paratransit network.”

The existing paratransit network consists of a variety of services within the county, including through Pace, Will County Dial-A-Ride, and several local governments and non-profit organizations.

Paratransit services provide a flexible, on-demand service that responds to rider requests for travel within a specific area, unlike a traditional bus service which operates on a published and fixed route.

These services are often geared towards those with mobility limitations that prevent them from accessing scheduled bus service or live outside of an area served by schedule bus services, like those in rural areas.

“Paratransit services are a critical resource for many Will County residents, especially those with mobility issues or those who live in more rural areas,” said Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, in a statement. “The results of this study will move us closer to providing a consistent, reliable transportation option for residents throughout the county.”

Officials said that due to the size of Will County, the existing paratransit networks have faced several challenges over the years. Although the county has several paratransit services available, not all services operate when needed by residents or for where they want to go.

Additionally, the services do not often allow for residents to travel outside of the county for employment, health care appointments or social gatherings.

“Transit is a key piece of economic development especially when it means getting workers to jobs,” Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said in a statement. “The key to any successful transit program is sustainable funding. Hopefully this study will give Will County some ideas on how we can build on the previous paratransit success and guide us towards future improvements.”